There are always issues when it comes to publications fueled by social justice. From the Guardian’s constant bellyaching over unpaid internships despite offering them, to Killscreen’s failure to pay its staff, there is a long history of progressive publications not practicing what they preach: fair wages for hard work. Teen Vogue, which prides itself on its “woke” reputation, seems eager to follow in the footsteps of its brethren.
Freelance writer Roslyn Talusan offered an insight today in a series of tweets about her mistreatment by Teen Vogue, offering a cautionary tale about how its editors treat prospective writers—especially rape victims who are just trying to share their stories.
On April 23, Talusan pitched what was, at the time, a time-sensitive personal story about her rape, in which she was the victim of “stealthing”—or the removal of a condom during sex without the consent of one of the partners.
She intended to write about her trauma and share her experience of sexual violence with readers of the magazine as part of their “Not Your Fault” series. The publication had previously run a story on “stealthing,” and she believed it would be a good home for her to share her experience.
The editor, who has been identified as Vera Papisova, gave an enthusiastic reply requesting Rosalyn to prepare a draft and omit any revealing personal information about the alleged rapist, for legal reasons. Talusan agreed to the conditions and promised to write the draft.
Two days later, the Teen Vogue editor reached back out to Rosalyn to ask if she could rush the piece out. She did so in time, but did not receive a response for 18 days despite repeated emails.
In Papisova’s eventual response, the editor had feedback requesting additional changes to the article, claiming that she included too many identifiable traits about the perpetrator.
“Legally, I can’t publish anything that identifies someone as a sexual assault perpetrator unless there is documentation,” wrote Papisova. “Since this piece isn’t exactly a fit for us, I am wondering if you’d be interested in writing an opinion piece on the man who was found not guilty of sexual assault, and make the piece purely an argument of why stealthing is sexual assault based on your experience.”
In response, Talusan provided legal documentation from a Canadian legal tribunal that confirmed she was a victim of sexual assault, along with the perpetrator’s testimony at the proceedings. VICE also published an article about the court case, which reveals how Talusan sought criminal compensation for what happened to her after criminal court declined to prosecute the perpetrator.
Papisova confirmed that she would run the story by Teen Vogue’s legal department and told Talusan that she would inform her of the decision by May 18. The editor never contacted Talusan again, essentially ghosting her.
Since her Twitter expose, Talusan has received messages from numerous other freelancers who shared their bad experiences with Teen Vogue.
“Look, editors are fucking busy and I’m just a freelance writer,” Talusan said on Twitter.
“My writing is based on my activism and it’s not my primary source of income. [But] so many people do rely on freelance money to survive. To be strung along and ghosted like this would be nerve-wracking for some folks.“
“If you don’t wanna run my piece, just say so. If there’s something else in the process, let me know. But don’t ghost me for a month. I know editors are busy. But what about freelancers who don’t have that steady, reliable income? Do them a favor and value their time, too.”
“If you’re exploiting people whose lives rely on that income and are wasting their time, you aren’t woke or progressive, you’re just shit,” she said.
Heat Street asked Teen Vogue to comment, but has not received a reply at the time of publication.